Yes, I'm on sabbatical. Last night I tried my first blog post of the trip, and got hung up by the length of time it took to post photos. So maybe I'll try again, but not right now. I need to work on reducing their size for blog posting, I think.
My first question is, how did I ever get so lucky to have work that gives me 3 months of paid leave for "true sabbath," that is, "rest," every 5-7 years? I certainly didn't know about this when I was in discernment for the priesthood -- I didn't choose this vocation (well, I didn't really choose it anyway -- it kind of chose me) based on getting a sabbatical. I think I first heard about this when I was graduating from seminary, but I never really dreamed it could happen for me! I tried to plan a sabbatical 3 years ago, and nothing seemed to work out right. This time, after nearly 10 years at St. Raphael's, everything just seemed to fall into place in the most wonderful ways.
So now I have embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. I don't think I've had three months off work since the summer after my freshman year of high school.
My plans are in three parts. The first two weeks I spent with my family, staying with my sister-in-law in Illinois, and haunting Terre Haute, Indiana, where I grew up. I took many sentimental journeys there, revisiting places and people that meant (and still mean) lots to me in my growing up years. As I said, I hope to post pictures: of the 2 houses where I spent my childhood, schools I attended, etc. I also had the opportunity to spend time with 2 of my life's best friends -- women I've known since we all were 13 years old. And I had a lovely visit with my one remaining brother, Paul, who was my childhood companion, and who is the only remaining person alive who has known me since I was born (well, except for my Uncle John, whom I haven't seen in decades).
Things aren't always working out as I'd planned (thanks, John Lennon, for saying that life is what happens when you're busy making other plans), but I feel like a sponge, soaking up every experience, every adventure, and learning from it all. So far, it's wonderful. Miraculous, even. I'm eating well and abstinently (no flour, sugar, or alcohol, weighed and measured quantities, regular calls to my dear, long-suffering sponsor). I'm feeling such gratitude. I even heard God in church (where else?) last Sunday -- it's great not to have to be "in charge," and just go and sing and listen. Life is amazing right now.
Now I'm in Buffalo, NY (well, near there, anyway), camping by the lake in my friend Cheryl's cozy, sweet little trailer, and using a mobile hot-spot that I purchased in order to have the internet while I'm here. My plan is to be here by the lake during the week, when the campground is nearly empty, and then be in Buffalo on the weekends, doing city things. I'm also hoping to get a lot of writing done. I'll be here for the next 4 weeks with my faithful dogs -- and with Cheryl, too, beginning next week. Today it was beautiful in the morning, and then it rained, which was also nice. I've experimented with my camera's auto-timer, and taken pictures of myself outside, alone and with the dogs. It's the kind of day when it's hard to know what to wear -- it's damp, so feels cool, but too warm for jeans and sweaters. So I keep changing clothes.
I've had time for reading (Cynthia Bourgeault, "The Meaning of Mary Magdalene;" Phil Cousineau, "The Art of Pilgrimage;" Richard Rohr, "Breathing Under Water;" Diane Mott Davidson, "Fatally Flaky," and more and more to come). I've been catching up on Jack's Blog, which I'm enjoying very much. I've been catching up on email. I've been taking naps. I've even been reading Facebook from time to time! Sunday I got to finally see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." I guess it would be hard to go wrong with the cast it has, but I was simply enchanted. I could have stayed with those people and watched their lives the whole night, and was sad when the 2 hours was over.
I'm also listening to a lot of old music -- revisiting the past, I guess. Before I left, I downloaded Beach Boys (yes, it feels like 1966), Neil Diamond (yes, it feels like 1973), the BeeGees (yes, it feels like 1982), James Taylor (1971). Oh, music can take me right back to how it felt back then! I've also got "Graceland," the Beatles, and "Born in the USA," and I keep thinking of more music I want.
The next leg of my great sabbatical adventure is Europe -- 5 weeks in Belgium, France, Spain, and Italy. Parishioners have given me a week's time share in southern Italy and a week in southern Spain. I'll be chasing black madonnas all over the continent! I'm particularly excited about seeing Paris, about which I've had dreams -- literal, night-dreams, though I've never been there, and about all the madonnas I'll be near in southern France and northern Spain. It's truly going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip -- unless my retirement dreams of winters in Sicily and summers in the US really work out.
So I'll be writing and adventuring and posting more here. Stay tuned!